The Old Woodlands Town Centre

The Old Woodlands Town Centre

Border towns are intriguing estates. Unlike other estates designed to be self-sufficient, border towns have a close relationship with the town across border. The old Woodlands Town Centre for instance is a border town for people passing through to Malaysia or Singapore. Until 1998, the Causeway was the only bridge linking the two nations and Woodlands served as a passage for those commuting or travelling overland.

Johor Bahru can be seen across the Strait of Johore from Woodlands.

Johor Bahru can be seen across the Strait of Johore from Woodlands.

A fortune teller picks a strategic spot to set up his trade.

A fortune teller finds a strategic spot to set up his trade.

Trade in the old Woodlands Town Centre depends heavily on its border town function. General businesses include shops selling apparel and footwear, money changers offering the most competitive exchange rates, and 24-hour eating houses to fill hungry stomachs round the clock.

Passport controls were implemented at Woodlands in June 1967 shortly after Singapore’s separation from Malaysia. The old customs complex was completed in the early 1970s at the junction of Woodlands Road and Woodlands Centre Road. The old Woodlands Town Centre would transform to become a pit stop for the transit.

The former Woodlands Bus Interchange still in operation in 1986. Do note the signage for Oriental Emporium. Image Source: National Archives of Singapore.

The former Woodlands Bus Interchange still operating in 1986. Note the Oriental Emporium signage on the left. Image Source: National Archives of Singapore.

The former interchange is now a parking space for buses.

The former bus interchange is now a parking space for buses.

In 1980, the Woodlands Bus Interchange was established at Woodlands Centre Road to provide bus services for the estate and the northern corridor. It was also located strategically next to the old customs complex.

The resident population also increased with the completion of Blocks 1A to 6A at Woodlands Centre Road in 1980. The area became lively: a shopping arcade with the likes of Oriental Emporium, entertainment at the Shaw Brothers-owned Woodlands Cinema, and dining options at fast food places, the hawker centre and 24-hour eating houses.

Blocks 1A to 6A at Woodlands Centre Road were completed in 1980.

Blocks 1A to 6A at Woodlands Centre Road were completed in 1980.

The former Woodlands Cinema owned by Shaw Brothers was a crowd puller in its heyday.

The former Woodlands Cinema owned by Shaw Brothers was a crowd puller in its heyday.

The hawker centre is a popular stopover for many Malaysian workers who commute to Singapore to work.

The hawker centre is a popular stopover for Malaysian workers who commute to Singapore for work.

Masjid An-Nur was built in 1980 to accommodate the large number of devotees in the area.

Masjid An-Nur was built in 1980 to accommodate the large number of devotees in the area.

A large mosque was built in 1980 to accommodate the large number of residents and visitors from Malaysia. Situated at the junction of Admiralty Road and Woodlands Centre, Masjid An-Nur can house up to 2,800 worshippers in one session.

Pace of life at the estate would come to a standstill by the 1990s. Woodlands Bus Interchange was closed and commuters were directed to the brand new Woodlands Regional Bus Interchange and Woodlands MRT Station that opened in 1996. The seven-storey Causeway Point, a mega shopping mall, opened three years later and soon offered better and newer amenities to visitors. The former bus interchange was eventually converted to a parking space for buses and coaches.

The Woodlands Regional Bus Interchange was Singapore’s first underground bus interchange when it opened in 1996. Image Source: Ministry of Information and the Arts.

The Woodlands Regional Bus Interchange was Singapore’s first underground bus interchange when it opened in 1996. Image Source: Ministry of Information and the Arts.

Former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong attended the opening ceremony held on 10 February 1996. Image Source: Ministry of Information and the Arts.

Former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong attended the opening ceremony held on 10 February 1996. Image Source: Ministry of Information and the Arts.

On 25 June 2012, the Housing and Development Board announced that Blocks 1A to 6A Woodlands Centre Road were earmarked for the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS). Residents from the 147 flats will relocate to the new replacement flats at Woodlands Drive 70 by 2016.

The mosaic-tiled Woodlands Town Centre was the focal point of Woodlands in the 1980s.

The mosaic-tiled Woodlands Town Centre was the focal point of Woodlands in the 1980s.

Residents and businesses will move out of the estate by 2016.

Residents and businesses will move out of the estate by 2016.

The site also comprises 186 shops, 6 offices, 5 eating houses and 78 hawker stalls. Eligible shop tenants will be given an ex-gratia payment of $60,000. The National Environment Agency would also build a replacement hawker centre at Woodlands Town. Current hawkers who wish to continue their trade will be allocated a new stall at the replacement hawker centre.

With residents and businesses moving out of the estate, the old Woodlands Town Centre’s days of glory will come to an end.

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